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Hundreds Fly From Israel to Pray for Hostages at a Rabbi’s Grave in Queens


Hundreds Fly From Israel to Pray for Hostages at a Rabbi’s Grave in Queens

In Jerusalem, Mr. Ariev said, he prayed for his child’s return at the Western Wall, a holy site where Jews slip handwritten prayers between the limestone bricks. His rabbi suggested he join the trip to New York. In Queens on Monday night, Mr. Ariev held in his hands a piece of paper scrawled with yet another prayer. “Now we can ask from the other side of the world for the same thing,” he said.

The Lubavitchers follow a strict form of Orthodoxy, but many of the people who made the trip were far less religious. In Israel, Chabad — which is known for its open-house-style synagogues and social services — is seen as something of a bridge between more secular Jews and other denominations. After more than five weeks of no word on most of the hostages’ fates, the journey was a mission for some Israelis, a pilgrimage for others. Some said it was a way to combat a feeling of powerlessness.

“I want all the world to know how far I will go to bring my children back home,” said Mirit Regev, 50. Her 18-year-old son, Itay, and her daughter, Maya, 21, were kidnapped from a music festival in the south of the country. Ms. Regev said that Itay was later seen bound in a Hamas video and that Maya’s cellphone was located miles away in Gaza. “I am in hell,” she said.

At Montefiore Cemetery that night, few wanted to discuss what had transpired since the people they loved were captured. Israel has said an estimated 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7 attack. Gaza health officials, who are part of the Hamas government, say more than 11,000 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave since the war began. Many of the families at the shrine said they planned to head on to a rally in support of Israel in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Shira Soussana said she and her family had always leaned left politically and called for peaceful coexistence. Then her sister Amit, 40, was kidnapped from a kibbutz about three miles east of Gaza. “After this happened, it makes us feel insecure; we don’t have a belief anymore in people, it’s so evil,” she said, adding, “on both sides.”

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